Cytokines for the induction of antitumor effectors: The paradigm of Cytokine-Induced Killer (CIK) cells

Elisa Cappuzzello, Roberta Sommaggio, Paola Zanovello, Antonio Rosato

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Cytokine-Induced killer (CIK) cells are raising growing interest in cellular antitumor therapy, as they can be easily expanded with a straightforward and inexpensive protocol, and are safe requiring only GMP-grade cytokines to obtain very high amounts of cytotoxic cells. CIK cells do not need antigen-specific stimuli to be activated and proliferate, as they recognize and destroy tumor cells in an HLA-independent fashion through the engagement of NKG2D. In several preclinical studies and clinical trials, CIK cells showed a reduced alloreactivity compared to conventional T cells, even when challenged across HLA-barriers; only in a few patients, a mild GVHD occurred after treatment with allogeneic CIK cells. Additionally, their antitumor activity can be redirected and further improved with chimeric antigen receptors, clinical-grade monoclonal antibodies or immune checkpoint inhibitors. The evidence obtained from a growing body of literature support CIK cells as a very promising cell population for adoptive immunotherapy. In this review, all these aspects will be addressed with a particular emphasis on the role of the cytokines involved in CIK cell generation, expansion and functionalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalCytokine and Growth Factor Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Adoptive Cell Therapy
  • Cytokine-Induced Killer cells
  • Graft-versus-Host disease
  • Interferon-γ
  • Interleukin-2
  • MHC-unrestricted killing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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